Russian finance minister hits back at Lukashenka
Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has hit back at Alyaksandr Lukashenka who strongly criticized his remarks about the Belarusian economy last week.
In a strong-worded speech on May 29, Mr. Lukashenka accused Mr. Kudrin, who also is Russia’s deputy prime minister, of attempting to "sow panic" in Belarus and siding with his political opponents. "I paid attention to Lukashenka’s speech. If those who want to help the Republic of Belarus and wish it a balanced and stable economy are likened to the opposition, then I don’t understand what the Republic of Belarus needs," Mr. Kudrin told reporters in Moscow on Monday.
The Russian vice premier noted that Russia had lent Belarus around $3 billion in the last 18 months and the loans had been tied to a number of conditions. In particular, he said, Minsk was told to secure a zero budget deficit, freeze wages, raise utility rates and devalue the national currency.
"When we speak about the need to continue certain measures, it suddenly causes such an unexpected reaction. We don’t understand this. The Belarusian government has proved unprepared for conditions of the economic nature and criticism," Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted Mr. Kudrin as saying.
Mr. Lukashenka’s angry reaction throws into further doubt the effectiveness of Russia’s lending to Belarus, Mr. Kudrin said. While speaking to reporters in Minsk on May 28, the Russian finance minister noted that Moscow would not give Belarus a loan of $500 million at present because of the neighboring country’s unsound economic policy.
"Disproportions and imbalances are growing stronger in the Belarusian economy," Mr. Kudrin said, recalling that the International Monetary Fund also did not rush to lend Belarus more money. "In our opinion, the government of the Republic of Belarus is taking insufficient measures to ensure the financial solvency of its economy," he said. "Effects of the crisis are being delayed artificially."
While talking at a government conference the following day, Mr. Lukashenka ordered the Belarusian government to stop begging Russia for help and "look for happiness in a different part of the planet" in response to the remarks.
"Interesting things happened yesterday, with the president [Lukashenka] sitting with [i]Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and having a friendly discussion ranging from personal and private issues to state affairs,"[/i] Mr. Lukashenka said. "Meanwhile, Kudrin gives a news conference before a session of the [Belarusian-Russian Union State's] Council of Ministers in order to sow panic in Belarus."
"He [Kudrin] fully sided with our thugs [opposition politicians] and began to teach us how to work," Mr. Lukashenka said. "If they [Russia] have such a good economy, what has caused GDP to fall by 10 percent? Our economy is different, but our GDP has risen by 1.5 percent year-on-year."